Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Most of the questions surrounding the President’s payments to Ms. Clifford could be answered if the President would only provide us with copies of a few documents:

  1. Copies of the cancelled checks used to pay Mr. Cohen.  We would then know the amounts and dates of all payments and the identity(ies) of the payors, e.g., Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities.
  2. Copies of those portions of Mr. Trump’s income tax returns and/or those of one or more of his business entities reflecting the payments.  We would then be able to determine whether the payments were considered business deductions or were treated as non-deductible personal expenses.  We don’t need to see all of the returns, only those portions that reflect the payments.
  3. Copies of the written retainer agreement(s) or engagement letter(s) between Cohen, on one side, and Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities on the other.  In this regard, in New York the Rules of Professional Responsibility, § 1212.1, requires, in pertinent part, that: “[A]n attorney who undertakes to represent a client and enters into an arrangement for, charges or collects any fee from a client shall provide to the client a written letter of engagement before commencing the representation, or within a reasonable time thereafter (i) if otherwise impracticable or (ii) if the scope of services to be provided cannot be determined at the time of the commencement of representation.”  If this (or these) agreement(s) were disclosed, we would then be able to determine the identity(ies) of Mr. Cohen’s client(s) and various other relevant information.  (Section 1212.1 requires that the engagement letter “shall address the following matters: 1. Explanation of the scope of the legal services to be provided; and 2. Explanation of attorney’s fees to be charged, expenses and billing practices.”)
  4. Copies of Mr. Cohen’s invoices.  We would then be able to determine whether the payment to Ms. Clifford was specifically disclosed to Mr. Trump and, if so, when that disclosure was made.
  5. Copies of any Forms 1099 reflecting payments to Mr. Cohen, his law firm, or Ms. Clifford.  This would provide confirmation of the amounts of all payments and the identity(ies) of the payors, e.g., Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities.

I rarely instruct other professionals (in this case, journalists) as to how to practice their professions.  But here it would seem obvious that one gains little insight by journalists continually phrasing and rephrasing questions to spokespersons and surrogates for Trump.  Just demand that Trump show us the evidence.

33 thoughts on “Inquiring Minds Want To Know”

  1. This is the definition of a fishing expedition. Ken Starr would be proud.

    1. Look, what Trump knew about the payment to Ms. Clifford, when he knew about the payment, and whether and when he authorized the payment are all newsworthy. His story as to these questions has changed any number of times. The documents I listed are clearly not a "fishing expedition." Rather, they are closely tailored to definitively determine the answers to the foregoing questions.

      1. I would like to see Trump gone as much as the next person, but newsworthiness is not sufficient justification for harassing Trump or Cohen over these matters. I doubt even Mueller is all that interested in this particular aspect of the Trump-Cohen relationship, except as supporting evidence for larger crimes.

        1. I would like to see Trump gone as much as the next person

          And I'm the Pope in Rome! Tell us another one, Unka Ajax.

          1. Any reasonable person, observing the decades-long pattern of crime and lying on the part of Lord Dampnut, would conclude that on any subject, if he says a thing, and the opposite incriminates him, then he's probably lying. Any. Reasonable. Person. There's no doubt about this, except amongst Trumpists. Furthermore, -Mueller- isn't investigating the Cohen matters — it's the SDNY. And even further, the public has an interest in whether Dampnut is a sexual assaulter par excellence. He uses NDAs like I use toilet tissue.

            To argue that he's being unfairly investigated is to argue in bad faith. And if anything, the same applies to "Sezhoo" Cohen in spades. And we should remember that the SDNY investigations are about Cohen's crimes. Of which again, there is ample evidence that they are numerous.

          2. I think your heuristic about Trump's lying is spot on. Of course he is lying about the Clifford affair and a hundred other things If his lying matters in the Clifford case, that will come out in court. Until it does, all the media coverage is click-bait and harassment, and doing things to further destabilize Trump's tiny mind is not in the public interest.

          3. OK, maybe not quite as much as the next person. I would like to see if he can pull off a workable policy/agreement/relationship with North Korea before he goes. After that, the hell with him.

          4. Is there -anything- in his history, that reasonably allows us to think that he can do this? His *entire* history of "deal-making" consists in "bluster, then fold". I mean, *c'mon*, we weren't born yesterday, d00d. Heck, the rapprochement between DPRK and ROK is at least partially driven by the South's realization that they're in this alone — Dampnut wants out, and he doesn't give a shit about Seoul. If you were Moon, you'd be reaching out, too: you'd have no idea when the US umbrella would disappear, and you'd then be negotiating on severely adverse terms. It is reputably reported that Israeli intelligence no longer shares the most sensitive intelligence with us. Our European allies are all planning on defense without America's help.

            As for the "public interest", the interest of every mammal any larger than … say … a hamster ought to be to get him away from the nuclear arsenal as fast as possible.

            Look: he's a grifter and a criminal. That's all he's ever done his entire life. And that's all he'll ever be. I'm a Dem. Always have been. But even *I* can see a giant difference between Iran-Contra, heck between Nixon's treason in 1968 (pre-election telling the South to hold off on peace negotiations), and the lies that got us into the Iraq War, and treason and conspiracy with a foreign enemy. Not to speak of the difference between the latter, and a failed land deal in Arkansas.

            Have a sense of perspective: the Republic is in danger.

          5. You are a hard case. Not to say you are wrong, but you are definitely convinced the worst has happened, is happening, and will happen. I'm not there yet. I think if anyone is in danger, it's Trump, and I'm ok waiting for either Mueller to finish up or Trump to self-destruct. But I would hate to see our best chance for a NK deal to slip away. I don't think Kim wants to talk to anyone but Trump. Those two speak each other's language, as evidenced by their bantering in the media.

          6. Ah. So you don't think Shitmidas is a Russian agent of influence // useful idiot. Good to know. But if you did think so, then would you agree that we need to get rid of him as quickly as possible?

          7. You think it's hypothetical that a guy who changes his position on almost every issue under the sun, depending on his audience, has one issue he's steadfast on, and that's "reduce sanctions on Russia" (to the point of clashing with his own appointees) might be a Russian agent? -That- is what passes for hypothetical?

            Uh, ok.

          8. As I understand it, there is a federal investigation into this possibility. Guy by the name of Mueller or something like that.

          9. I'm sure you think OJ didn't do the deed, either. Note I didn't say "innocent" (that's a judicial statement, a statement about our process) — I said "do the deed".

          10. Help me out here (actually asking and trying to make sure I have a handle on the facts). Your primary evidence that he is an owned asset of the Federation is that he is consistent in his pro-Russia sentiment, and while I agree with you that that is an interesting fact I think it is a pretty long way from making the case. Are you also relying on the edgy parts of the Steele report? Because, I mean, even an idiot in the position of "rich television personality who sometimes runs for office" doesn't have provided prostitutes urinate on him in a space he doesn't control. That isn't the sort of trap that only a subtle man avoids, that is really fucking obvious. If there is actually blackmail material, I highly doubt it is of the exact nature that the Steele report suggests. As far as I know the only evidence of cooperation we have is the wikileaks messages (which I think are pretty awful, don't get me wrong) and the son meeting a Muscovite lawyer about damaging information concerning HRC. I don't think selective Russian behavior during the election really shows much because he was the joke candidate so of course anyone looking to mess with us would try to damage the other candidate. What am I missing?

          11. Not relying on the edgy parts of the Steele dossier. Just a few facts that pretty much nail it shut:

            (1) GrOPer convention platform change
            (2) consistently advocates dropping sanctions on Putin, even against advice of appointees & subordinates
            (3) secret plan to drop 'em right after inauguration
            (4) *surrounded* by Russians, Russian agents, and friends of Russian agents. Fricken' *surrounded*
            (5) History of rampant criminality
            (6) Rampant criminality with Russians and Russian money

            And it goes on and on and on. That's just off the top of my head.

            ETA: I could continue with many, many more. The rhetorical strategy of the GrOPers is to point at one fact, and hammer on that. But there's too many. Too damn many.

          12. I suspect that what Kim Jong Un sees in Donald Trump is someone who's more concerned about flattery than in representing America's interests. I would judge that Kim Jong Un is acting now (as opposed to at some other time) because of South Korean politics, because it's a period of relative American diplomatic weakness, and because of the state of North Korea's nuclear program. It's not accurate to say that Kim Jong Un only wants to talk to Trump; he seems quite happy to talk to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

          13. I meant the only American personage Kim wants to talk to. Obviously Kim talks to Moon, Xi, Putin, etc.

            Really surprised you don't include the international sanctions Trump put together, including by China, for any part of Kim's decision. It's one thing to be anti-Trump, as I mostly am, and another to withhold any credit from Trump. That's just not credible.

          14. Really surprised [not!] you don't factor into your judgement of Dampnut, that he's pushing *hard* for war with Iran.

            Re: NorK, most well-respected analysts believe he's getting played. That in fact, one of the big reasons this rapprochment is happening, is that Commander Heel Spurs has tried repeatedly (his advisors have dissuaded him so far) to remove our troops (and hence, our nuclear umbrella) from ROK. NorK's definition of "denuclearization" most definitely doesn't include giving up their own nukes; perhaps it'll include giving up their ICBMs, but that doesn't hinder their ability to threaten their neighbors (and our allies). The end result will be more nukes, b/c for sure Japan will need to have 'em. So sure, Kim wants to talk to Shitmidas. B/c he's a fool who can be played. Bra-vo.

          15. I don't know what he has in mind with Iran. I doubt it's war. But anyway, we were only talking about NK. It makes your argument look weak when you bring in extraneous issues.

            As far as removing troops from SK, even Jimmy Carter wanted to do that, and reduce our footprint abroad generally. They are not needed for US security.

            Even if Trump only gets a deal on long-range missiles that can hit the US, both we and our allies will be better off than without it. If Japan feels they need their own nukes, (although no allies in Europe except France does), that would be sad, but so be it.

          16. Part of the definition of "bullshit" (per Harry Frankfurt) is that it's neither lies nor truth, but rather, has a goal, which is to convince the recipient of some particular thesis. In this case, it is that Putinfluffer should be given time — that he's not that bad, that maybe he'll succeed.

            This is bullshit. His actions towards NorK will -not- remove their nukes, and -will- end up destabilizing the region, b/c they'll cause Japan to need nukes (b/c without our nuclear umbrella, they'll need their own; maybe the ROK too). And that's a best-case outcome. BTW, one of the -reasons- that the US extended its nuclear umbrella over its allies, was that by doing so, it obviated the need for them to develop their own nukes. Which brings us to Iran. If we tear up the JCPOA, and the Iranians sprint towards a bomb, that'll make the Saudis want one. Oh, won't that be grand! And again, that's the best-case — the worse-case is that we invade Iran and unleash a world war. Or at least, a world depression (b/c they -can- bottle up the Straits of Hormuz).

          17. The questions in my mind are: 1. Is there an outside chance of an acceptable deal with NK with Trump in there? I think so (today, anyway). and 2) Is there a better chance of a deal if we engage in a Constitutional crisis to get rid of Trump? I can't see how.

            Trump is not nearly smart enough to hash out the details of an agreement but Pompeo and Mattis are pretty smart and realistic guys, although in general they are too belligerent for me. I suspect they will work toward a deal that assures that NK develops toward being a more "normal" authoritarian state along the Chinese model, without long-range nukes and with or without medium-range nukes. As far as complete de-nuclearization, I don't see that either. As Bannon said, "They got us."

            Can we keep Japan and SK under our umbrella even if our troops are removed from SK? Why not?

            By all means let's keep to the JCPOA. If there is something more we want from Iran, let's negotiate for it. Who knows what Trump's game is. His threats may be a bluff to soften up Iran for such a supplemental deal. He can even say we're out of the JCPOA, but as long as we don't actually violate it, nothing really changes except our bargaining position.

          18. It's also been widely reported that Kim doesn't mean that NorK gives up -their- weapons; only that the US gets out of the ROK.

          19. That would still be progress in my book. But I'm sure even Trump can get more than that.

  2. I woud offer a similar but simpler approach. We can assume that Trump and Cohen between them DO know exactly what DID happen regarding that $130,000.00 payment. If the facts are innocent, they could just disclose and document them. Adverse inferences can fairly and reasonably be drawn from their failure to do so, and fomtheir inconsistent statements and general phumphering around. (Most likely, the prosecutors knows the facts as well by now.)

  3. To follow up on Stuart's OP, I think at this point, we need to see -all- the payments, so we can determine how many other women were hushed-up in this way. He needs to release any and all women he might have slept with, from NDAs, period. If he's the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, he should show is Goddamn (sic, on purpose) homework.

  4. "Most of the questions…could be answered…"

    You seem to think that anybody's purpose is to answer questions. This is a category error.

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